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Sudan and South Sudan strike 'partial peace' deal

Though analysts call the peace deal between Sudan and South Sudan 'partial,' President Obama praised the move, calling it an 'important step' away from conflict.

By Correspondent / September 27, 2012

Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir (l.) and South Sudan President Salva Kiir (r.) shake hands on the completion of a signing ceremony after the two countries reached a deal on economic and security agreements Thursday, Sept. 27, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Elias Asmare/AP

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Nairobi, Kenya

Sudan and South Sudan today signed a partial peace deal that will ease tensions between the former civil war foes and, most significant, restart oil exports whose suspension has crippled both countries’ economies.

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The agreement, inked by Salva Kiir, South Sudan’s president, and Omar al-Bashir, his counterpart from Sudan, came after the scheduled day of talks extended into four days of talks.

Though analysts say the deal still needs work, Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s former president and lead negotiator on the African Union-sponsored discussions, praised the move.

"We are convinced that what has happened, which culminated in signing of the agreements, constitutes a giant step forward for both countries," he said during the signing at a five-star hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.

But significant issues remain, not least of which is the status of disputed border areas between the two countries, prompting analysts to term the deal a “partial peace.”

Perhaps most important, Mr. Kiir agreed to restart oil supplies from oil fields in South Sudan, which Sudan then pumps through its territory to export terminals on the Red Sea.

South Sudan shut off the taps in January, claiming that the fees that Mr. Bashir’s government in Khartoum was charging were too high.

Both countries rely heavily on crude export sales for their state budgets – in South Sudan, oil accounts for 98 percent of government revenues – and the shutdown caused huge economic difficulties for both nations.

The oil will start flowing again “by the end of the year, I believe,” says Pagun Amum, chief negotiator for South Sudan.

Also agreed upon was the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone along the disputed border between South Sudan and Sudan, which fought Africa’s longest civil war as a united nation.

More than 2 million people died in on again, off again fighting that ran between 1955 and 2005. It ended with a peace agreement in 2005 that led to South Sudan seceding into a new independent nation in 2011.

Following today's agreement, troops from both armies would now pull back from positions along the border, where fighting in April raised fears that the two countries were heading back to all-out war.

Another contested issue that remains is the fact that there was no resolution on oil-rich disputed border areas claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan. This includes the region of Abyei, which has huge political significance for both presidents.

Parallel talks aimed at easing conflict between the Sudanese government and rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan also failed to progress, according to Amanda Hsiao, South Sudan field researcher for the Enough Project, part of the US-based Center for American Progress.

“I think there’s a bit of disappointment from South Sudan because they didn’t achieve the comprehensive deal that’s been their aim throughout. What we have is a partial peace deal,” says Ms. Hsiao.

“The key element that is missing is any kind of resolution on Abyei. And while the deal represents a sense of stability between Juba and Khartoum, there cannot be true progress until the Blue Nile and South Kordofan conflicts are resolved and humanitarian access is allowed into both states,” she adds.

Both Kiir and Bashir were under significant pressure from the African Union and the United Nations to conclude the negotiations today, before Sudan and South Sudan were discussed at the UN General Assembly in New York. 

This agreement breaks ground in support of the international vision of two viable states at peace with each other," President Obama said in a written statement, calling for continued dialogue and sustained implementation of the deals.

"The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan have chosen to take another important step on the path away from conflict toward a future in which their citizens can live in dignity, security, and prosperity.

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